There’s plenty of controversy surrounding President Joe Biden’s decision to send cluster munitions to Ukraine — including the fact he disclosed a potential weakness in American military readiness in the process.
On Friday, The Washington Post reported the munitions — which are banned by more than 120 nations under an international agreement, although neither the United States nor Ukraine are signatories — were part of an $800 million military aid package.
The M864 artillery shells, fired from 155mm howitzers, are called “cluster” munitions because, once fired, they split into dozens of smaller explosive devices, called “bomblets,” scattering devastating destruction over a wide area — like a shotgun shell writ large.
Cluster bombs are canisters that carry dozens of smaller bombs.
While they are designed to explode on impact, as many as 30% do not, making them a risk to civilians for years.
Over 90% of recorded cluster bomb casualties are civilians, of which nearly half are children.
And, during an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that aired Sunday, Biden not only revealed that Ukraine is running out of the deadly ordnance, but that the United States is, as well.
“I know it’s a very difficult decision in my part,” Biden said in the interview, according to a CNN transcript
“And by the way, I discussed this with our allies, discussed this with our friends up on the Hill, and we’re in a situation where Ukraine continues to be brutally attacked across the board by munitions, by these cluster munitions that are — have dud rates that are very, very low, I mean, very high that are a danger to civilians, number one.
“Number two, the Ukrainians are running out of ammunition. The ammunition that they used to call them 155-millimeter weapons. This is a war relating to munitions, and they are running out of that ammunition and we’re low on it.
“And so what I finally did, I took the recommendation of the Defense Department to, not permanently, but to allow for in this transition period where we have more 155 weapons, these shells for the Ukrainians, to provide them with something that has a very low dud rate,” he added.
“It’s about — I think it’s 1.50, which is the least likely to be blown.”
Washington Examiner chief political correspondent Byron York called Biden’s admission of munitions weakness an argument against the transfer of the weapons to Ukraine.
“In CNN interview, President Biden is not particularly clear but seems to be saying US is sending cluster munitions to Ukraine because we are running out of 155mm artillery ammunition to send them,” York wrote. “Seems obvious this is affecting US readiness to defend itself.”